Pride Month is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond, where during the month of June, queer authors and bookish content creators are invited to celebrate being queer, queer books, and their experiences of being a queer reader. Find the introduction post for Pride Month at The Quiet Pond here.
A warm welcome back to the Pond, friends! We’re back with yet another book recommendation post and I’m so excited to share today’s list of books that you can all read during Pride – and beyond Pride Month!
For us at the Pond, Pride Month is an opportunity to spotlight and celebrate the incredible work done by queer authors. Moreover, it’s important to us that the work that we do when celebrating Pride Month is deserving of the intersectional Pride Month flag that we have proudly used in our banner. Therefore, the books that we recommend will include books by authors of colour and disabled authors – and we encourage all of our Pond friends to make their Pride reading intersectional and colourful.
Last year, we did five book recommendation posts (you can find a full list here!) and we thought: why don’t we do it again? But, rather than recommend the same books over and over again every year, we wanted to give you all a fresh and updated list of queer books that we at the Pond have read and loved.
This year, the book recommendation posts that we will be sharing will be:
- 8 Books with Gay and M/M Rep
- 12 Books with Sapphic and F/F Rep
- 10 Books with Trans, Nonbinary, and Genderqueer Rep
- 10 Books with Bisexual and Pansexual Rep
- 10 Books with Asexual, Aromantic, and Questioning Rep
And if you want to check out last year’s book recommendation post for trans, nonbinary and genderqueer rep, find it here!
Between Perfect and Real by Ray Stoeve
Dean Foster knows he’s a trans guy. He’s watched enough YouTube videos and done enough questioning to be sure. But everyone at his high school thinks he’s a lesbian—including his girlfriend Zoe, and his theater director, who just cast him as a “nontraditional” Romeo. He wonders if maybe it would be easier to wait until college to come out. But as he plays Romeo every day in rehearsals, Dean realizes he wants everyone to see him as he really is now––not just on the stage, but everywhere in his life. Dean knows what he needs to do. Can playing a role help Dean be his true self?.
CW: Between Perfect and Real should be required reading for Pride Month, for its affirming, vulnerable, and moving portrait of Dean, who has always been out as queer but steadily realises that he is a trans boy. I loved this book and will recommend this for years to come.
- This book strikes a great balance between soft and fluffy with serious and honest. The story does portray bullying – and the bullying is awful – but it also shows trans joy and self-love, which you can feel was written with so much love and vulnerability.
- How the story explores relationships in this book was amazing. The story explores Dean’s fraught relationship with his mother, his affirming relationship with his friends, and also what his trans identity means for his romantic relationship as well.
- I feel that this story is honest yet safe in how it explores identity – that there’s sometimes a lot of questioning and self-doubt involved, but understanding who you are comes with so much affirmation and joy.
The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimmons
Fifteen-year-old Spencer Harris is a proud nerd, an awesome big brother and a Messi-in-training. He’s also transgender. After transitioning at his old school leads to a year of bullying, Spencer gets a fresh start at Oakley, the most liberal private school in Ohio.
At Oakley, Spencer seems to have it all: more accepting classmates, a decent shot at a starting position on the boy’s soccer team, great new friends, and maybe even something more than friendship with one of his teammates. The problem is, no one at Oakley knows Spencer is trans – he’s passing.
So when a discriminatory law forces Spencer’s coach to bench him after he discovers the ‘F’ on Spencer’s birth certificate, Spencer has to make a choice: cheer his team on from the sidelines or publicly fight for his right to play, even if it means coming out to everyone – including the guy he’s falling for.
Skye: What a wonderful premise! It already sounds like such a tender and important book for trans teens right now, with its exploration of how trans kids can still be systemically discriminated against, even if they are able to ‘pass’ as their preferred gender. I’m really excited to pick up a copy of this, having heard so many good things about it already!
May the Best Man Win by Z. R. Ellor
A trans boy enters a throw-down battle for the title of Homecoming King with the boy he dumped last summer in ZR Ellor’s contemporary YA debut.
Jeremy Harkiss, cheer captain and student body president, won’t let coming out as a transgender boy ruin his senior year. Instead of bowing to the bigots and outdate school administration, Jeremy decides to make some noise—and how better than by challenging his all-star ex-boyfriend, Lukas for the title of Homecoming King?
Lukas Rivers, football star and head of the Homecoming Committee, is just trying to find order in his life after his older brother’s funeral and the loss long-term girlfriend—who turned out to be a boy. But when Jeremy threatens to break his heart and steal his crown, Lukas kick starts a plot to sabotage Jeremy’s campaign.
When both boys take their rivalry too far, the dance is on the verge of being canceled. To save Homecoming, they’ll have to face the hurt they’re both hiding—and the lingering butterflies they can’t deny.
CW: I haven’t read this yet, but I’m anxiously looking forward to reading this. Though the front cover makes it seem like a cute romance, May the Best Man Win is a sharp and ‘morally ambiguous’ story about two queer teens who are angry, grieving, and messy who complete with one another for the title of Homecoming King. As much as I love thoroughly wholesome queer stories, I also want there to be room for queer messiness, where the queer character are, quite simply, human and imperfect. I’m a huge fan of messy YA contemporaries where no character is perfect, so May the Best Man Win sounds like something I will enjoy.
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.
When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle….
But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.
CW: My goodness, this book. The praise for Felix Ever After were sung high and low, and now that I have finally finished it, I can now attest to its brilliance.
- Felix Ever After isn’t a thoroughly wholesome and fluffy book, though there are fluffy moments! Rather, this is a book that delves into the messiness and nuance of identity and relationships, and I loved that.
- This book explores the experience of coming out as a trans boy, but later questioning that identity. I loved that this book explores how identity is fluid; we can grow and change and find new ways to feel more at home with ourselves.
- I loved that this book is about love. More specifically, I loved that this book is about how we learn to love others – that love is not always neat and tidy, but can sometimes be messy and difficult.
The Witch King by H. E. Edgmon
Wyatt would give anything to forget where he came from—but a kingdom demands its king.
In Asalin, fae rule and witches like Wyatt Croft…don’t. Wyatt’s betrothal to his best friend, fae prince Emyr North, was supposed to change that. But when Wyatt lost control of his magic one devastating night, he fled to the human world.
Now a coldly distant Emyr has hunted him down. Despite transgender Wyatt’s newfound identity and troubling past, Emyr has no intention of dissolving their engagement. In fact, he claims they must marry now or risk losing the throne. Jaded, Wyatt strikes a deal with the enemy, hoping to escape Asalin forever. But as he gets to know Emyr, Wyatt realizes the boy he once loved may still exist. And as the witches face worsening conditions, he must decide once and for all what’s more important—his people or his freedom.
Skye: Okay, you had me at “trans fae prince reclaims a long-lost throne via a gay betrothal to a childhood best friend”. I MEAN, how cool does that premise sound already?! I love love love reading queer fantasy, and judging by the amount of hype and love it has already gotten, this book does its incredible premise justice. I’ve also heard that there’s queer characters galore in the book, as well as a side character who is Native American? 👀 Needless to say, I am going to be looking for a copy of this one post-haste.
Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee
Noah Ramirez thinks he’s an expert on romance. He has to be for his popular blog, the Meet Cute Diary, a collection of trans happily ever afters. There’s just one problem—all the stories are fake. What started as the fantasies of a trans boy afraid to step out of the closet has grown into a beacon of hope for trans readers across the globe.
When a troll exposes the blog as fiction, Noah’s world unravels. The only way to save the Diary is to convince everyone that the stories are true, but he doesn’t have any proof. Then Drew walks into Noah’s life, and the pieces fall into place: Drew is willing to fake-date Noah to save the Diary. But when Noah’s feelings grow beyond their staged romance, he realizes that dating in real life isn’t quite the same as finding love on the page.
CW: I’m currently reading Meet Cute Diary and I am really intrigued and compelled by how this book is subtly subverting romance tropes, told from the perspectives of a realistically flawed trans tri-racial teenager, Noah, who believes that he’s an expert in romance. I’m partway through, but I’m enjoying where the story is going and what this story delves into!
The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho
A bandit walks into a coffeehouse, and it all goes downhill from there. Guet Imm, a young votary of the Order of the Pure Moon, joins up with an eclectic group of thieves (whether they like it or not) in order to protect a sacred object, and finds herself in a far more complicated situation than she could have ever imagined.
Skye: This book is a masterclass in Zen Cho’s penchant for witty banter and effortlessly fluid character interactions bundled up in a warm slice-of-life story with wuxia elements, set in a fantasy version of historical emergency Malaya.
- Structurally, this book is almost set up like a heist story: a nun joins a group of troublemaking bandits in their journey to deliver some smuggled goods despite their initial reluctance to take her on. Along the way, the group gets into several run-ins with local law enforcement, and inadvertently discover some surprising things about themselves and each other. The focus here is very much on the group dynamic, and boy does Zen Cho’s mastery of hilarious conversations simply ooze off the page. I cannot stress how much of a fun read this was!
- All the characters are also some varying shade of queer too. The treatment of a character’s revealed gender transition is tender and thoughtful, and it was so affirming to see queerness normalised in world that looked so much like my own.
- Speaking of which: I also seriously appreciated how thoroughly Malaysian this book is, from the standalone elements like kopitiams and kedondong juice to the colonial history of the region the story is set in. A lot of the worldbuilding was unexpectedly and wonderfully familiar for me, which wasn’t immediately communicated to me from its very East Asian-coded cover! All in all: if you’re looking for something short, sweet, queer, and delectably light, this is the precisely the book that you’ll want to pick up.
The Seep by Chana Porter
Trina Goldberg-Oneka is a trans woman whose life is irreversibly altered in the wake of a gentle—but nonetheless world-changing—invasion by an alien entity calling itself The Seep. Through The Seep, everything is connected. Capitalism falls, hierarchies and barriers are broken down; if something can be imagined, it is possible.
Trina and her wife, Deeba, live blissfully under The Seep’s utopian influence—until Deeba begins to imagine what it might be like to be reborn as a baby, which will give her the chance at an even better life. Using Seep-tech to make this dream a reality, Deeba moves on to a new existence, leaving Trina devastated.
Heartbroken and deep into an alcoholic binge, Trina chases after a young boy she encounters, embarking on an unexpected quest. In her attempt to save him from The Seep, she will confront not only one of its most avid devotees, but the terrifying void that Deeba has left behind.
CW: The Seep is an utterly fascinating story and I relished in the rich and cerebral experience of an imagined world invaded by the alien entity called The Seep.
- It’s hard to really pinpoint what The Seep is truly about, because I feel like it explores so many things – from the dawn to sunset of life, to what makes life beautiful and lived, and the unique griefs of a world where The Seep exists.
- This book is also a beautiful meditation on trans identity and experience, in a world where people can change their faces and their appearances with ease. The story doesn’t offer an answer, but will definitely provoke thought.
In the Watchful City by S. Qiouyi Lu
The city of Ora uses a complex living network called the Gleaming to surveil its inhabitants and maintain harmony. Anima is one of the cloistered extrasensory humans tasked with watching over Ora’s citizens. Although ær world is restricted to what æ can see and experience through the Gleaming, Anima takes pride and comfort in keeping Ora safe from all harm.
All that changes when a mysterious visitor enters the city carrying a cabinet of curiosities from around the world, with a story attached to each item. As Anima’s world expands beyond the borders of Ora to places—and possibilities—æ never before imagined to exist, æ finds ærself asking a question that throws into doubt ær entire purpose: What good is a city if it can’t protect its people?
CW: In the Watchful City is unlike anything I’ve ever read; experimental, transcendent, and utterly personal, pick this book up if you’re looking for a stunning story that explores gender and subverts the binary.
- I loved that this novella had stories within stories; stories that melded biocyberpunk futurism with folklore and mythology, and explored the beauty, the pain, the struggle, and the complexity of life and living.
- This novella delves deeply into the intersections of gender, heritage, and power; it’s also delightfully queer and explores grief, power, oppression, and abuse.
- The stories are thoroughly Asian-inspired and Asian-influenced, and I enjoyed how Lu subverts cultural and historical norms and imbues them with new meaning and perspective.
Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki
Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil: to escape damnation, she must entice seven other violin prodigies to trade their souls for success. She has already delivered six.
When Katrina Nguyen, a young transgender runaway, catches Shizuka’s ear with her wild talent, Shizuka can almost feel the curse lifting. She’s found her final candidate.
But in a donut shop off a bustling highway in the San Gabriel Valley, Shizuka meets Lan Tran, retired starship captain, interstellar refugee, and mother of four. Shizuka doesn’t have time for crushes or coffee dates, what with her very soul on the line, but Lan’s kind smile and eyes like stars might just redefine a soul’s worth. And maybe something as small as a warm donut is powerful enough to break a curse as vast as the California coastline.
As the lives of these three women become entangled by chance and fate, a story of magic, identity, curses, and hope begins, and a family worth crossing the universe for is found.
Skye: I picked this up on a whim a few days ago because I was so intrigued by the premise of a deal with the devil, but friends, oh friends—this book expanded and delighted my imagination so much, and I was reduced to such a soft mess upon the reaching final page.
- The plotline details the intersection of the lives of three very different queer women: Katrina Nguyen, a trans teen girl with an unsung passion for music, Shizuka Satomi, a legendary larger-than-life violin teacher on the prowl for one final student in order to fulfill a demonic pact, and Lan Tran, (seemingly) a Vietnamese single mother who runs a beloved donut store.
- I WAS TRULY NOT PREPARED for how healing and queer/trans-affirming this story is. How soft its found family. How wonderful its characters. This book is so so so so loving. It is about violins and deals with the devil and aliens, yes, but it’s also about this really sweet found family coming together amidst trauma and pain, and what it means to be human: to love food and music, what it means to care for someone unexpectedly.
- It is one that holds your hand and assures you: you are worthy. You are safe. You are more than your queerness but also beautiful because of it. Your body may not look how you want it to yet, but look, it is still capable of producing such lovely things. What more can I ask of a book?
Releases September 28. Add this book on Goodreads!